Monthly Archives: November 2016

“Keep it Shut” by Karen Ehman is the Perfect Handbook for the Christmas Season…

Friends!  Have you ever let ugly words fall out of your mouth and then say, “How did that happen?” Followed by groveling, apologizing, and more agonizing repair jobs.

I can remember exactly where I was when I was about to utter something, knowing I shouldn’t divulge whatever it was, but saying it anyway. Mercy.

I’m certain the Apostle Paul and I are going to have some fabulous lightning round conversations when Heaven calls me home. (“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15 NIV) Can he read our minds, or what?

There’s a lovely, hysterical-while-helpful book out you may wish to find, like yesterday. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest it just could be the handbook for the holidays.

The book? Keep it Shut—What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All by Karen Ehman. ( She’s got a wonderful website with lots to offer…)


Four pages of endorsements later (!!!), my good buddy, Liz Curtis Higgs, is one of a slew  who  gives a big thumbs’ up. Lizzie says,  “Keep It Shut offers hope for all of us who struggle with controlling our tongues.  Karen’s honest and compassionate advice teaches us how to weigh our words and think before we speak…Helpful, practical, biblical.”

Right out of the starting gate, Karen does a word search in the Bible concluding, “God places great importance on the way we use our speech.  In fact, the words tongue, talk, speak, words, mouth, and silence are used over 3,500 times in the Bible.”  Wow.

One of several great Bible verses Karen gives us is Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NIV)

Check it out below in The Message:


Yes, well, that should certainly make us think…

Karen bravely tackles tough topics such as gossip, flattery, speaking the truth in love, controlling your anger, etc.  Whereas I’d prefer to flee (brave soul that I’m not!), she urges us to be upfront, honest, and sincere.  Oh dear.  But, and you knew that was coming, thankfully she includes tips which are doable.

One of my favorite tips she offers comes from a section called “Pause before you pounce.”  She says, “Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off.”

May we all make note of the permanent vs. temporary point.  This is huge.  I’ve been a perfect example of this when I’m tired.  That’s when my speech gets sloppy, slippery, and  slimy.  (Displaying this book in every room of the house comes to mind.)

Another person I can’t wait to meet and talk to in Heaven is dear Brother James.  His first chapter, especially verses 19-20 tells it like it is: (This is also in Karen’s book.)

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: 

EVERYONE should be
QUICK to listen,
SLOW to speak and
SLOW to become angry,
Because human anger does NOT produce the righteousness that God desires.” (NIV)

In addition to offering timely Scripture, Karen blesses us with extremely handy-n-helpful lists.  A couple favorites are:  “Proverbs’ Top Ten ‘Tweets’ on the Tongue” and “Top Ten Verses to Watch Your Words”. Precisely why I suggest this book to be a handbook for getting thru’ the holidays, or any day for that matter!

As God would orchestrate, I packed a favorite magazine along with a bag full of books to take on a recent road trip to Virginia.  While I was flipping thru’ the magazine, lo and behold I landed on an article, Mind Your Words. Guess who wrote it?  Yes, our author we’re talking about, Karen Ehman.  Is that some God-incident or what? (This is resource #2, and there’s more…)

The magazine?  Oh, here’s another gift idea for Christmas. Check out Life Beautiful magazine. (Below is the cover from the new Winter Issue. Karen’s article is in the Fall Issue.)  It’s the best. ( )


Karen opens the article with yet another killer Scripture:

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3 ESV)

Clearly this message was for me because now enter resource #3 the very same week about the very same topic:  Hello?

Hubster read a devotion from our Married for Life—Inspirations from those Married 50 Years or More by Russ L. Potter II and Bill Morelan. (I shared how this book has helped us as well as our married children this past summer.)


That particular morning, we read about Melvin and Margaret Elliston, married June 12,1944.  Their  two cents’ worth?  “When you get into an argument, take a good long walk to cool down.”

The authors add:  “In the heat of an argument, emotions arise that often are better left unspoken, for thoughtless words can cause frightful damage to a loved one’s heart and soul. And a wound inflicted in an instant may take months to heal.”  That is the permanent vs. temporary train of thought Karen teaches us.

Proverbs 29:11 seals this concept: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

Lots to chew on….Let’s close with a beautiful prayer from the first chapter of Keep It Shut:



‘Til next time!


P.S. I just received an email from Ann Voskamp’s blog. Guess who her guest author is from Cyber Monday? Our very own Karen Ehman! Karen is sharing lovely quotes from her newest book Listen, Love, Repeat – Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World.

Anyone reading my mind? Yes, this should be next on our list…Blessings!







Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

You’re Invited to Book Club Monday, November 28th! Come Get in the Christmas Spirit with help from “Prayers of a Stranger—A Christmas Journey” by Davis Bunn.

Friends! Mark your calendars, post Turkey Day, and join us at Middletown United Methodist Church for Branches Book Club’s last meeting of 2016 on Monday night, November 28th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. (We’ll resume in January.)

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243

We’ll be discussing a novel by Davis Bunn, Prayers of a Stranger—A Christmas Journey.

Prayers of a Stranger

We’ll be resuming our potluck tradition with a Christmas theme. How creative can you be  for the treats you bring?  A Christmas tree-shaped appetizer?!!!

No door prizes this time, because we’re asking each of you to bring a $5.00 Christmas ornament for an ornament exchange. You can take one home and decorate your tree!Christmas Ornament

First, let’s talk about our author. Davis has become quite the novelist. He’s won four Christy Awards, has more than seven million books in print, in twenty languages. He’s often asked to speak on writing.

Pop onto his website ( ) and check out an interview where he talks about how he got into writing and how he splits his time between Florida and England. (Surely their Florida residence is the inspiration for the scenes he shares in our selection.)

He and his wife, Isabella, have a unique living arrangement while at Oxford. Think Downtown Abbey plus a plethora of tourists. Davis is hilarious with his descriptions.

If you’ve not had the time yet to read the book, there’s still plenty of time before November 28th because it’s a page-turner. Or, if you’d like to come hear our discussion and then read it, that’s okay too.

I confess I was surprised more than once with the plot and subplots.   The main character, Amanda Vance, has several dragons to slay, as does her husband, Chris.

Throw in a crushing Christmas the year before when their first child was stillborn. Watching them come to grips with tidal waves of grief, while trying to both work is painful. Their marriage hangs on by a thread. Can it be repaired?

Flowers On A Tombstone In A Cemetary With Headstones In The Back

They’re both blessed with friends who surround them, however they don’t always let them in. An interesting turn of events finds Amanda flying with her neighbor, Emily, on a last-minute trip to Israel.

You’ll enjoy traveling with them, taking in the sights and sounds, feeling as if you’re in the Holy Land. You don’t want to miss what happens at The Wailing Wall. No spoiler alert!


Good news is, the trip brings healing in a number of ways to both Emily and Amanda. But back in the States, Emily’s husband,Frank, and Amanda’s husband, Chris, have their own struggles. Frank winds up in the hospital while Chris and his job are presented with opportunities we the reader cannot begin to predict. Will he stay strong or will he compromise?

Davis weaves threads throughout the plot which show God orchestrating the characters’ paths. The people they meet and influence highlight the strength of their character and faith. It is really sweet to see their growth from so many God-incidences.

Davis even throws in a prodigal in the mix.  How in the world are Frank and Emily going to handle this?

Another blessing is you’ll get to see how integral the below verse becomes to Amanda:


There’s something beautiful about Godly restoration and redemption. While this is a novel, as in fiction, we can be reminded that nothing  is impossible with the Lord.

Please grab a friend and come join us next Monday night, November 28th from 6:30-8:00! We will get in the Christmas spirit and enjoy fellowship with one another as well as learn more about Prayers of a Stranger.

Please RSVP to Nancy Tinnell by calling (502) 245-8839 or emailing:

Have a Blessed, Happy Thanksgiving with your family this week!

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews

Crazy Busy or Crazy Grateful? (With help from Kevin DeYoung) Part 2 of 2

Friends!  Last week we discussed our need for pushing pause and how to do just that, thanks to an excellent book by Shauna Niequist (Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living).

This week, I have more good news for you!  Thanks to a lovely God-incident, I came across a skinny little book (only 118 pages long) by Kevin DeYoung.  The book?  Crazy Busy—A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.


The author, Kevin DeYoung, is the Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.  Kevin’s married to Trish and they are blessed with, get this:  seven children.  That is one full quiver, God bless ‘em!

You can go online to Kevin’s church’s website, and check out his sermons.  I was blessed to hear Kevin speak at a Together for the Gospel Conference ( ) here in Louisville a couple of years ago. (You can also go to that website and watch any of the talks from the conference.  Amazing speakers, Kevin included.)

As funny and brutally honest as Kevin is, he’s equally passionate about believing in, abiding in, and trusting in our Sovereign Lord.  For which we can thank him, because his book we’re about to talk about will steer you away from chasing unnecessary wild rabbits.

From the first word of the first chapter, Kevin pulls us readers in.  Let me show you:  Chapter One’s title: “Hello, My Name is Busy.”

Kevin begins, “I am the worst possible person to write this book. And maybe the best. My life is crazy busy. I don’t say that as a boast or a brag…How did I get this way?  How did you get this way?…There’s a pervasive sense of being unrelentingly filled up and stressed out.”

Here’s where I picture Shauna’s red wagon we talked about last week brimming over with her lugging it with great difficulty behind her.  Kevin’s been doing likewise.


In fact, when Kevin’s friends asked him about his next book project, upon hearing his answer about a book on busyness, they were stunned.  They reminded him his schedule was a mess and busyness was one of his biggest problems. Precisely why he took the project on.

This is the same scenario years ago for me when I began to study the meaning of margin.  (And the lack thereof, in my own calendar.)  I confessed to many of you, had my Mother been living then, she’d have howled out loud and said, “Oh, this  should be good!”

Kevin tells us upfront the layout of the book: “My outline is as simple as three numbers:  3, 7, and 1:  Three dangers to avoid (chapter 2), Seven diagnoses to consider (chapters 3-9), and One thing you must do (chapter 10).  Excellent  and succinct.  Choose your chapters per your interest. You don’t have to read them in order.

My favorites of the seven diagnoses, while all good, are “Diagnosis # 4:  You Need to Stop Freaking Out About Your Kids”, “Diagnosis #5:  You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul”,  and “Diagnosis #6:  You’d Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself.” To which I reply, “Thank you, but really: Ouch, ouch, and ouch.”

Wow. Close Up Portrait Young Woman Beautiful Girl Looking Excite

While Crazy Busy is crazy full with helpful tips, I’d like to share a couple of quotes to get your laughter endorphins cookin’.  I firmly believe, especially when we’re stressed out (a/k/a crazy busy), laughter is the best medicine.

Straight from Scripture:  Proverbs 17:22 reminds us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Cheerful hearts come from laughter, but crushed spirits come from being crazy busy.


Kevin quotes Tim Chester from his book, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness where he offers “twelve diagnostic questions to determine how ill we’ve become with ‘hurry sickness’.”  They’re all worth exploring, and I’ll tease you with just two of them:

Tim:  #6. “Do you often feel tired during the day or do you find your neck and shoulders aching?”

Kevin: “Mountain Dew, ibuprofen, not a problem.”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 26th Oct 2016, Mountain Dew is a carbona

Tim:  #12. “Do you eat together as a family or household at least once a day?”

Kevin:  “More or less. When one person is eating, someone else is usually in the house at the same time.”

In the chapter on not freaking out about your kids, Kevin says, “Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be.  It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives.”

Babies Playing With Toys

“Now, our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night.  They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.”

Hysterical and comforting… Oh my.

Kevin doesn’t promise immediate change or transformation, or a money-back guarantee (!!!) for us readers, but he does say,

“I hope you’ll find a few ways to tackle your schedule,
several suggestions for reclaiming your sanity, and
a lot of encouragement to remember your soul.”

Friends, those are some kind of powerful verbs:  tackle, reclaim, remember.

For those of us trying to do everything for everybody, this book will help us literally put those worries to bed and sleep better.  No foolin’…

Sleeping Dreaming Woman

Finally, Kevin saves the best for last in “The One Thing You Must Do.”  No spoiler alert, just a phrase or two to leave you with:

We have to believe that the most significant opportunity before us every day is the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus.”

Kevin quotes another one of my favorite authors, Paul Tripp.  Paul gifts us with a quote not just for people in pastoral ministry, but for all of us in our ministries, whether with our family, friends, small groups, the grocery store, Home Depot, wherever:

I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry

When I daily admit how needy I am,
Daily mediate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and
Daily feed on the restorative wisdom of His Word,
I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Savior.”

Dear friends, let’s all be more intentional about these next few weeks, to not be so crazy busy, to enjoy and savor moments with family and friends as Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches.

Thank you, Kevin, for a wonderful, helpful, and blissfully short book!

‘Til next time!




Filed under Book Reviews, Margin

When You Need to Push Pause…(With help from Shauna Niequist) Part 1 of 2

Friends! What do you do when you hear Christmas music playing in Walgreen’s while you’re buying Halloween candy?  Would you happily hum along, or become more than irked?

I’m not tellin’ what my reaction was.  You can take a wild guess.

I battle daily with “the glass is half empty” vs. “half full” outlook in addition to a crammed calendar.  Sigh…

My friend Lisa gifted me with a timely book recently over lunch.  She’d been so moved by it, she figured I could use a dose of it as well.

If you’re in the midst of barely coming up for air, juggling a full calendar, feeling like you’re about to implode, this book is for you.  (Never mind Christmas is right around the corner! I know…)

The book?  Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.


Shauna confesses her life was like she “was pulling a little red wagon, and as I pulled it along, I filled it so full that I could hardly keep pulling.  That red wagon was my life, and the weight of pulling it was destroying me.”

Three pug chihuahua mix - chug- puppies in a red wagon toned

(Now I know Shauna’s talking about things and too many activities, not a load of puppies, but I couldn’t resist this picture. However, three puppies at once could be stressful!)

Shauna tells us, “This book is an account of my winding, messy journey from…

Exhaustion to peace,

From isolation to connection,

From hustling and multitasking to sacred presence.”

She invites us, the reader, to join her from a bird’s-eye view.

She is, “Calling you to leave behind the heavy weight of
Competition, and
Exhaustion, and to
Re-craft a life marked by
Connection, and
Unconditional love.”

Sign me up!  The book is a collection of stories, divided into six parts.  Because she’s been on this journey to get off the “drug of efficiency”, she speaks with authority, sharing what she’s learned, encouraging us to take her challenge of being present over being perfect.

I wish I’d learned these lessons while raising our boys!  Gracious!  Shauna is very convincing, tho’, and I’m a big believer in “it’s never too late.”

Listen to this:  “If you believe people can’t change, I’m here to tell you we can. If you think you could never turn down the volume or lay down your armor or climb into the silence, I’m here to tell you that if I can, you can. If I can, anyone can.”

“I’m a hardened case, a tough nut to crack, a lifelong connoisseur of noise and motion and excessiveness of any kind.  If I can climb into silence and simplicity, anyone on earth can join me there, I promise.”

See how persuasive she is?  Don’t you want to climb into silence and simplicity? She really draws the reader in.  It’s like sitting down in a café having a cup of coffee with her.  A real-live therapy session.

Shauna’s honesty is refreshing and many times, comical.  Just as one story is funny, the next one brings tears.  Many tugged at my heart, being a mother of boys like her.  I’d love to give her a huge hug and say, “Shauna, dear girl, you’re doing the best job and I’m so very proud of you for taking this wake up call and encouraging us to do the same.”

She shares words she’s choosing to focus on during this new season:

grace, and

She reminds us we cannot hear from God when we’re on the hamster wheel.  We must slow down and be still, quiet, non-moving.

She says, “Let silence be your anchor, your sacred space, your dwelling place.”


Shauna blasts the word “perfect”, while embracing and giving examples of how to be “present”.  She’s blessed by friends who literally come alongside of her and rescue her.

One “aha!” moment happened in their home one night when they had a Jesuit priest over along with some friends. They were studying the story of Peter walking on water (See Matthew 14:22-33.).

Shauna said they saw for the first time that Jesus rescued Peter first before ever saying a word.  She suggests we remember and recognize Jesus is for us, all about us, and nothing surprises Him, or rattles Him.  He’s on our side and will do everything in His power to rescue us every time.

My friend Liz frequently reminds me of this same scenario.  It’s as if God says, “It’s okay.  I’ve got this.”

Finally, let’s close with a couple of eye-opening questions that will help us all push pause before filling something else in on our calendars….

Busy Day Overworked Schedule.

Shauna asks,

1 – “What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created?”

2 – “What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes?”

Blank Desk Calendar With Pink Carnation Flower

This reminds me of what I heard John Piper say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Before the holiday season hits, grab Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living to read slowly.  You’ll save your soul a lot of unnecessary strife and stress if you do.

Choose to be present over being perfect.

Purposefully push pause to do so.

Take a deep breath and smile.

‘Til next time!

P.S.  You can learn more about Shauna via her website: She’s married to Aaron and they’re blessed with two boys, Henry and Mac.  She’s written a number of books, two of which are my favorites:

One is Savor – Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are (Great devotional.  I’ve given it to all our daughters-in-love.) I   blogged about it last year: “Every. Single. Day


The other one is Bread and Wine – A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.


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Filed under Book Reviews, Margin